Is Deceptional Fraud More EVIL Than Psychopathy? “Paranoiac” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)

Get “Paranoiac” on the Collector’s Edition Scream Factory Blu-ray!

The parents of siblings Tony, Simon, and Eleanor Ashby die in a tragic plane crash. Two years later, Tony commits suicide by plunging himself off a cliff into a watery grave with his body never having been recovered from the ebb and flow of crashing waves upon the oceanic rocks. Eleven years later, the long thought dead Tony suddenly and unexpectedly returns to what’s left of his family: an overprotectively cold and matriarchal substitute in Aunt Harriet, a narcissistic and alcoholic brother Simon, and a sister, Eleanor, on the precipice of losing her mind from grief over Tony’s death. Shocked by this return, the surviving Ashby siblings split their concerns regarding Tony’s authenticity. Eleanor believes her brother is alive and has come back to rebuild the happy relationship between them whereas Simon denounces Tony’s validity and works underhandedly to either expose Tony as a fraud or to get rid of the imposter by any means necessary, especially when the conditions of receiving the Ashby family fortune have nearly come to an end and a hefty inheritance awaits his opulent tastes. Tony’s arrival causes complications with the inheritance, opens up old wounds, evokes new romantic sensations, and regresses transgressional guilt toward a fiery conclusion to the Ashby family mystery.

A ravishingly dark, mystery thriller inspired by Scottish author Josephine Tey’s crime novel “Brat Farrar” from 1949, the 1963 “Paranoiac” works from off of Tey’s dysfunctional and deceptional family building blocks and extending it into a gothic framework of demented greed in a brand-new of-shooting avenue of psychological thrillers from Hammer Films, hoping to branch off the traditional horror trunk and piggyback success off of the American released, 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film, “Psycho.” “Paranoiac” is the junior film of Freddie Francis (“The Skull,” “Torture Garden”) and penned by the longtime Hammer writer, who basically wrote all of Hammer’s classics, Jimmy Sangster (“Horror of Dracula,” “The Revenge of Frankenstein”). Anthony Hinds and Basil Keys served as producers.

“Paranoiac’s” ensemble cast is quite brilliant in their respective roles.  Oliver Reed (“Curse of the Werewolf,” “Gladiator”) stands out immensely with a flamboyantly cruel and warped performance as the erratic Simon Ashby constantly under the influence of Brandy, Champagne, or whatever alcoholic beverage he can get his organ-playing hands on.  Reed puts out this hateful energy that can’t be ignored and outlines Simon with defined truth about where the character stands with his own flesh and blood – a callously cold and calculating black sheep.  Simon becomes fascinating in every scene, every scenario, and continues to unravel as a wild card that always leave us wondering what he’s going to do next.  Then there’s sweet and innocent but overly distraught Eleanor from Janette Scott in complete sibling behavioral polarity that sinks Eleanor further and further into madness designed by those close to her.  Scott, who also had a starring role in “The Old Dark House” that was released the same year, came aboard relatively new to Hammer but equates her status against Reed, who Hammer was grooming to be a prominent leading man for more of their productions, by selling Eleanor’s despair and the deep-seeded craving for her other, more sweeter, brother, Tony.  Encompassing the thought dead younger brother is Alexander Davion, another newbie to Hammers’ brand with, in my opinion, a neutral and bland face that doesn’t fit the Bray Studio’s swarthy and distinguished lot of male actors.  Davion’s also doesn’t do terribly much with Tony’s sudden resurrection as he folds himself back into Ashby manor.  While this could be Freddie Francis’s shrouding display of truth upon Tony’s legitimacy, there is literally no life or passion behind Alexander Davion’s eyes as he stares blankly at accusations and even Eleanor’s incestuous flirtations.  Yes, incest becomes a rummaged theme that walks a tightrope between more than just two family members.  “Alone in the Dark’s” Sheila Burrell is the stern protector in Aunt Harriet, “Blood Beast from Outer Space’s” Maurice Denham ruffles Simon’s feathers as the Ashby estate treasurer holding all of his inheritance, “The Maniac’s Liliane Brousse nurses a façade over the well-being of Eleanor and the love interests of Simon, and the cast wraps up with John Bonney as the treasurer’s fraudulent son.

Hammer had by 1963 already established itself as a horror powerhouse with the success of colorfully bold, violently stout, and sexually-saturated innuendo classic monster features, such as with “Horrors of Dracula,” “The Curse of Frankenstein,” and “The Mummy.”  Capitalizing on the coattails of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and sitting on the adaptational rights for Josephine Tey’s “Brat Farrar,” Hammer decided to pivot into the crime and suspense thriller direction that alluded to the aftereffects of cerebral breaking blended into elements of collusion, creating an endless tense-filled turbine revolving around the whodunit particles and the who’s veneer is covertly smeared by corruption.  In a way other than the similar one word title and an unhinged theme, “Paranoiac” could be mistaken as a Hitchcockian-shot production with the larger than life and depth rich landscapes; the vast wide shots of Isle of Purbeck’s peaks and cliff steeps are engulfed oxymoronically as an idyllically menacing key peninsula landscape centric to Tony’s long thought demise as well as a place of hopelessness as the natural English Channel waves crash relentlessly onto the rocks below.  Francis and Sangster hinge the film success on the colossal subtext of brittle strength, guilt, and a vague but prominent suggestion of incest between sister and brother and brother and aunt that, in all honestly, was a personal surprise to myself that it passed the British Board of Film Certification (BBFC).  Yet, the insinuation did and paved a real pothole plague path for viewers in a good way that the story kept evolving, kept us on our toes, and when it spiraled, it spiraled quickly and sharp in a descent onto those very hopeless rocks below waiting for our emotions to be swept away lost in a mobile, violent current. 

Paranoia runs rampant like an epidemic in this Freddie Francis aptly entitled sullen celluloid “Paranoiac,” the next Hammer film receiving a collector’s edition Blu-ray treatment from Scream Factory, the horror sublabel from Shout Factory! The region A locked encoded Blu-ray features a new 2K scan from the interpositive. By 1963, Hammer was well versed in technicolor, especially for Stateside releases of UK films, but “Paranoic” opts for the black and white picture in another subtle nod to “Psycho.” Under veteran Hammer Film’s cinematographer Arthur Grant, that famous gothic-cladded manor house is aesthetically fetching with in every detail captured by Grant’s 35mm camera as well as the broad wide shots in the bird’s eye view of Isle of Purbeck. Scream Factory releases the film in 1080p, full high definition of the original aspect ratio 2.35:1 with sterling results in extracting details and balancing the contrast without brightening or darkening where not needed or intended. There were no real damage spots to point out nor were any crops or enhancements made to touch up possible problematic or stylistic areas. The release comes with a single audio option in a DTS-HD Master Audio monaural track with slight static in the background. Dialogue is clean and mostly clear with an occasion hiss during more boisterous moments, but the range and depth of a faultless ambience and Elisabeth Lutyens brassy and bass soundtrack comes through symmetrically balanced. English SHD Subtitles are also optional. The special features include a new audio commentary with Film Historian Bruce Hallenbeck, two new interviews with author and critic Kim Newman in Drink of Deception and with film historian Jonathan Rigby in A Toast to Terror – two familiar faces seen in recent Scream Factory’s restorations of Hammer productions, a making-of segment that dives archive interviews with Jimmy Sangster and others going over the genesis of the story and into Hammer’s aspirations at the time, and a theatrical trailer. “Paranoiac” is more than just its creepy, bulbous mask that graces the Mark Maddox gorgeously green illustrated slipcover and snapper case cover art. Rarely does a film evolve from one narrative into another without crisscrossing the stitchwork, becoming overly convoluted beyond repair, yet “Paranoiac” digs in and dilates the already volatile chemistry with integrated and powerful performances from Oliver Reed and Janette Scott that makes this film high on the Hammer watch list.

Get “Paranoiac” on the Collector’s Edition Scream Factory Blu-ray!

Giving EVIL the Electric Chair Only Gives EVIL a Buzz! “Destroyer” reviewed! (Cheezy Movies/DVD)


The unspeakable 23 rape and murder crimes of psychopath Ivan Moser grant him a seat of honor at the electric chair. As soon as the switch is thrown, a massive prison riot ensues and what happens next becomes unexplainable, confusing, and indeterminable. One thing is clear, the prison’s Warden Kash loses his position as the trashed penitentiary is forced to shut down. Eighteen months later, a film crew acquire permits to shoot a women-in-prison exploitation film inside the prison with the help of it’s one time custodial employee, Russell, who is just as creepy as the abandoned maximum security penitentiary that housed the infamous Ivan Moser. As production grapples with townsfolk opposition, electrician’s timing miscues, and some seriously bad acting, there’s one unexpected obstacles not accounted for…a living, breathing Ivan Moser still living inside the iron cladded prison.

Horror fans from all walks of life to the age gaps of multiple generations can all agree on one thing, that the 1980’s is the gilded age of horror to which inspired and/or captivated us all. The decade was also an industrious change for political climates that saw the fall of the Berlin and saw musical artists like Michael Jackson break the conventional molds of how music was orchestrated, sung, and danced too. For movies, the change came with technical innovation in elaborate special effects, such as in John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and undogmatic view of how we perceive plots which opened the flood gates to a slew of unexplored ideas no matter how far-fetched they may seems. One plot such as this would be from the 1988 prison massacre film, “Destroyer,” directed by Robert Kirk as is one and only non-fictional feature before an extreme career solidifying shift to historical movie and television documentaries. Written by Peter Garrity (“The Forgotten One”), Rex Hauck, and Mark W. Rosenbaum, “Destroyer’s” a gritty tale of endless, black obsession fueled by insanity, revved up with inexplicable half-alive malice, and juiced with strength of an indestructible force without being overtly supernatural.

With an 80’s movie comes an 80’s cast and the popular reteaming of Clayton Rohner and Deborah Foreman from 1986’s holiday themed horror, “April Fool’s Day.” “Destroyer” isn’t based on a certain holiday, but converges more toward meta approach where Clayton Rohner and Deborah Foreman play the romantic couple, grindhouse screenwriter David Harris and stuntwoman Susan Malone, on film set of their women in prison movie – Death House Dollies. A typecast switcheroo is engaged as the physicality falls upon the female role while Rohner takes a reserved backseat as a writer and that entails Foreman to face off against Lyle Alzado as the unspoken titular character Ivan “Destroyer” Moser. Alazdo’s crazy eyes and muscular football build provides the suitable basic elements of a crazed killer; probably doesn’t hurt that Alzado was also juiced up on steroids throughout his career in the NFL and beyond his exit from sports entertainment. Alzado has been quoted in Sports Illustrated having uncontrollable anger from roid-rage and that pressurized anger seethed, one could assumed, in the eyes of Ivan Moser, forging a superhuman monster under the parental guardianship of Richard Brake lookalike, Tobias Anderson (“Harvest of Fear”). “Psycho’s” late Anthony Perkins co-stars a the director of the WIP film as an unusual placemat only to serve as a hot moniker in horror to be contextual candy for one big scene and not providing much else. Lannie Garrett, Jim Turner (“Pogrammed to Kill”), Pat Mahoney (“Strangeland”), and four Death House Dollies in a gratuitous shower fight scene co-star!

A purebred American slasher of eccentric electrifying devices, “Destroyer” chooses punitive measures against the concept of capital punishment, sending the cryptic message that the dead will haunt you and those that you touch forever in some warped guilt trip nexus. The message is only further hammered in by the embossed haunting atmosphere of Robert Kirk’s opening sequence of a priest walking down the hazy cellblocks toward Moser’s cell, sitting with twitchy Moser while he madly raves and rambles about the game show that plays on a television set in front of his cell, and going through the steps of a chaired electrocution echoes a utilitarian dystopia that fathers in the cold, ungenial tone of the prison and Moser’s psychotically feral thirst to kill. Ivan Moser’s vitality is infectious, a hail-mary shot you’ll be rooting toward the finale, as the serial killer undertakes undertaker duties with extreme perversity while chocking up his body count with unsystematic eliminations, such as with a conveniently placed jackhammer in the prison basement. The jackhammer’s scene is “Destroyer’s” bread and butter, the showpiece of the whole film, but Moser only snag a couple of some real good on screen kills. All the rest are off screen or channeled through another device, such as an electric chair, and that softens and stiffens Moser’s, if not also Alzado’s, ultimate larger-than-life presence. Still, “Destroyer” rocks Lyle Alzado’s short-lived indelible monster making movie talent and confines the space to a breathless solitary confinement death house ready to devour more victims.

“Destroyer” shocks onto DVD home video release distributed from Cheezy Movies, MVDVisual, and Trionic Entertainment, LLC. If you’re not willing to shell out big bucks for “Destroyer” on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, check out Cheezy Movies’ economy region free DVD presented in an academy ratio, full frame 4:3. A beginning title card mentions that Cheezy Movies attempts to find the best transfer available when searching out titles and I believe that was done here with this release, but unlike Scream Factory, funds were not poured into an expensive upscale as moments of banding start right at the title credits. The transfer instances of dirt and cigarette burns are immaterial enough to not falter viewing, but there’s a bit of hefty color posterization in the basement scene that nearly blends the entire white scheme together and causing difficulties defining individual objects. The English language single channel mono mix maintains a lossy connatural sell topping out at the it’s as good as it gets ceiling with an economy release, but the dialogue is surprising clear, soundtrack sounds good, and the ambience, though needing a fine tuning, shapes out depth and range nice enough. With this release, no special features are available. Much like “Destroyer’s” tagline, Robert Kirk’s feature won’t shock you, but will give a great buzz with a nightmare coiling around your brain performance from Lyle Alzado and a super 80’s execution-from-the-grave slasher that’s just a guilty pleasure to behold.

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Herbert West Receives a New, Evil Release! “Re-Animator” review!


Third year medical student Dan Cain is on the verge of graduating from the New England Miskatonic University Medical School. That is until Dr. Herbert West walks into his life. Learning all he can from neurologist Dr. Hans Gruber in Zurich, Switzerland, West eagerly enrolls as a student at Miskatonic to viciously dismantle, what he believes, is a garbage postmortem brain functionality theory of the school’s grant piggybank Dr. Carl Hill while West also works on his own off the books after death experiments with his formulated reagent serum. West takes up Cain’s apartment for rent offer and involves Cain in a series of experiments that lead to reviving the old and the fresh dead. The only side effects of revitalizing dead tissue is the unquenchable rage and chaos that urges the recently revived to rip everything to shreds. Things also get complicated and people begin to die and then revive when West and Cain’s work becomes the obsessive target of Dr. Hill, whom discovers the truth and plans to steal West’s work, claiming the reagent serum as his own handiwork while also attempting to win the affection of Dr. Cain’s fiancee and Miskatonic’s Dean Halsey daughter, Megan Halsey, in the most undead way.

A vast amount of time has passed since the last time I’ve injected myself with the “Re-Animator” films and I can tell you this, my rejuvenation was sorely and regrettably way overdue. Stuart Gordon’s impeccable horror-comedy, “The Re-Animator,” is the extolled bastardized version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein without direct references and begins the ghastliness right from the initial opening prologue and never wanes through a fast-paced narrative of character thematic insanity and self-destructing arrogance with hapless do-gooders caught in the middle of undead mayhem. Producer Brian Yuzna financially backs Charles Band’s Empire International Pictures distributed 1985 film that’s based loosely off the H.P. Lovecraft 1922 novelette “Herbert West-Reanimator.” From a bygone novelette to an instant cult favorite amongst critics and fans, “Re-Animator” glows vibrantly like it’s reagent serum embodied with reality-buckling entertainment and grisly havoc displayed through the silver screen adapted form. Umbrella Entertainment has released a two-disc collector’s set, the first volume on their Beyond Genres label of cult favorites, and this release, with various versions, will include the allusive 106 minute integral cut!

From his first moments on screen holding a syringe to over three decades of pop-culture films, comics, and social media presence, nobody other actor other than Jeffrey Combs could be envisioned to be the insatiable Dr. Herbert West. Combs is so compact with an explosive vitality that his character goes beyond being a likable derivative of a Machiavellian anti-hero. Narrowing, dagger-like eyes through thick glasses on-top of small stature and a cruel intent about him makes Combs an established horror icon unlike any other mad doctor we’ve ever seen before. Bruce Abbot costars as Dr. Dan Cain, a good natured physician with a penchant of not giving up on life, but that’s where he’s trouble ensnares him with Dr. West’s overcoming death obsession. Abbott’s physically towers over Combs, but his performance of Cain is softly acute to West’s hard nose antics. Abbott plays on the side of caution as his character has much to lose from career to fiancée, whose played by Barbara Crampton. “Re-Animator” essentially unveiled the Long Island born actresses and made her a household name who went on to have roles in other prominent horror films, including another Stuart Gordon feature “From Beyond,” “You’re Next,” and the upcoming “Death House.” David Gale rounds out the featured foursome as the detestable Dr. Carl Hill. Gale embraces the role, really delving into and capturing Dr. Hill’s maddening short temper and slimy persona; a perfect antagonist to the likes of Combs and Abbott. The remaining cast includes Robert Sampson (“City of the Living Dead”), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and Peter Kent.

The “Re-Animator” universe is right up there with the likes of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.” Hell, there is even a line of comics that pit the two franchises together in a versus underlining. Unfortunately, “Re-Animator” is frankly nothing without the franchise star Jeffrey Combs, much like “The Evil Dead” is nothing without Bruce Campbell even though we, as fans, very much enjoyed the Fede Alvarez 2013 remake despite the lack of chin. Gordon’s film needs zero remakes with any Zac Efron types to star in such as holy role as Dr. Herbert West. That’s the true and pure terrifying horror of today’s studio lucrative cash cow is to remake everything under the genre sun. Fortunately, “Re-Animator” and both the sequels have gone unscathed and unmolested by string of remakes, reboots, or re-imagings. Aside from a new release here and there, such as Umbrella’s upstanding release which is fantastic to see the levels of upgrades up until then, “Re-Animator” has safely and properly been restored and capsulated for generations to come.

Umbrella Entertainment proudly presents the first volume of the Beyond Genres’ label with Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator” on a two-disc, full HD 1080 Blu-ray set, presented in a widescreen 1.77:1 aspect ratio. A very fine and sharp image quality that maintains equality across the board with minuscule problematics with compression issues, jumping imagery on solid colored walls for example, but the issues are too small amongst the rich levelness of quality and when compared to other releases, Umbrella Entertainment’s release is a clear-cut winner. The English DTS-HD master audio puts that extra oomph into Richard Bands’ score that’s heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” adding a pinch of chaotic gothic charm to the macabre story. Dialogue is balanced and upfront, but there isn’t much prominent ambient noise to put the dialogue off-kilter. Special features on the first disc include the 86 minute unrated version of “Re-Animator,” audio commentaries from director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson; there’s also a “Re-Animator Resurrectus” documentary, 16 extended scenes, and a deleted scene. The second disc includes the 106 itegral cut along with interviews with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, writer Denis Paoli, composer Richard Band, and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. Plus, a music analyst by Richard Band, TV spots, and the theatrical trailer. All this and a bag of corpses is sheathed inside a remarkably beautiful encasement with a seriously wicked custom slipcover desgin by illustrator Simon Sherry. There’s also reversible Blu-ray casing cover art with previous designs incorporated. H.P. Lovecraft would be extremely flattered and proud on how Umbrella Entertainment not only enhanced the film adaptation of his classic tale of macabre, but also with how diabolically attired the release is distributed. A true horror classic done right!

Shower with an Evil Portal! “Curtain” review!

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Unable to cope working as a hospice nurse, Danni begins a new life in a new apartment after separating herself from a server downhearted state while living with her uncle Gus. As Danni settles into her degrading new job involving saving the whales and into her small apartment, she begins to decorate her home, starting with hanging a simple shower curtain. However, as soon as she exits the bathroom, the shower curtain vanishes and so begins the mystery that leads to the discovery that she’s now part of secret order to protect The Gate, a passage way that can be used to give birth to the vilest evil. With the tireless help from her co-worker Tim, the two set off to stop The Gate from potentially destroying Dani’s life…or the world.
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Movies like “Curtain” are the reason why I enjoy writing about them so very much. One tiny event, an event anyone would think couldn’t be turned into a full feature film, snowballs through the pages of a script and that script is presented to us by independent filmmakers Carys Edwards, writer, and Jaron Henri-McCrea, writer and director, of “Curtain.” The 74-minute film revolving around shower curtains being sucked into the bathroom tile opens with a seemingly distraught individual on an empty subway car, rambling and shaking after a reoccurring and thunderous dream that doesn’t make sense at that moment. The film’s hook comes early, sucking us into this man’s life when we learn he’s duck taped his bathroom door shut. He’s tensely afraid of the small enclosure to where one goes for unburdened release whether to drop a load or get cleaned up, but as the man decides to cut away the tape and opens the door to proceed in hanging a curtain, he unintentionally sets the stage for our heroine, Danni.
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Solid performances all around by the cast. Danni Smith, portraying her namesake character, conveys a strong, defiant character even in the wake of her depressive struggle. Her characters goes through complete denial of the curtain eating bathroom, shutting down Tim, played by Tim Lueke, almost instantly when he’s curiously goes berserk of the possibilities of what to gain from this phenomenon. Tim Lueke does amazing work displaying a naïve activist and we discover the character’s humbleness through his naïveté, making him a likeable, standout character whose has motives that semi trump his passions when Danni is concerned. I really liked Martin Monahan and his Pale Man character, a blind gatekeeper, if you will, trying to protect the realms The Gateways portals. Monahan worked with director Jaron Henrie-McCrea previously, headlining Henrie-McCrea’s comedy-thriller “Pervertigo,” and the Indiana native takes a backseat, co-starring role that packs a memorable punch, leaving an everlasting mark of solemn and death.
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If you haven’t noticed already, Henrie-McCrea has an affection for Alfred Hitchcock films. Between “Pervertigo,” a slight play of words from Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” starring James Stewart, to this film entitled “Curtain;” the shower curtain is an iconic set piece for Hitchcock’s more popular film “Psycho.” The Columbia University alumnus Henre-McCrea knits his own pattern into the Sci-Fi Horror film that is “Curtain,” subtly building-in comedy elements amongst the characters and not so much surrounding the situation. The young director has an eye for cinematography and bringing substance from the scene to the forefront as the director blends suspense, terror, comedy, and sadness, meshed together so intricately it’s seamlessly composites all genres that’s shot in some particular tight locations. The comedy stems from only certain characters such as the crass Preston The Super or Willy the homeless, paint can sniffer.
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Much of Henrie-McCrea’s shock value spurs from intense close ups, as you’ll see in this articles screen shots. Quick, loud, and in your face scares or disturbances that’ll cause eye-popping jumps effectively note “Curtain’s” tone. This technique is very familiar with Evil Dead’s Sam Raimi and does bear a resemblance to a staple of 80’s horror with an Italian-like synth score by Adam Skerritt to match. Creature and special effects are briefly shown to obscure the possibility of detecting flaws (perhaps) and also to suggest that less is more, leaving more for the mind to fill out the horror’s of what you just saw. No scenes are left lingering on the horrific moments as much of “Curtain” is story centric, focusing on the mystery of The Gateway.
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Frightfest presents the Icon Studio’s “Curtain” on DVD this July 18th in the UK. The DVD will be released in a gorgeous 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix and an accompanying 2.0 stereo mix option. The DVD includes a film introduction, an presentation commentary, and an entertaining making-of featurette. I can’t comment too much on the audio and video since a DVD-R was available for screening. “Curtain” has a particular taste of comedy that’s favorably dry and on-point synced well to the horror mystery engulfing the genre. Director Jaron Henri-McCrea becomes a force to be reckoned with paired to the talented actors Danni Smith, Tim Lueke, and Michael Monahan. “Curtain” is everything that’s right with horror-comedies and nothing short of excellent independent filmmaking.

The Unofficial and Evil Sequel! “2 Jennifer” review!

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After the success of writer-director James Cullen Bressack’s “To Jennifer,” a sequel begins to shape from the mind of aspiring filmmaker Spencer. Spencer’s quest is to locate the perfect, the one-and-only, Jennifer actress, who must bare the birth name as well. With a trip to Los Angeles and the help from his former high school buddy Mac, Spencer has quickly lined up a handful of potential Jennifers in hopes of one of them becoming his leading lady. Spencer and Mac finally decide on Jennifer Pope, a young actress who has yet to see the original film. Everything seems to be on track, but a dark cloud lingers overhead, slowly developing upon a hidden secret that’ll take the sequel “2 Jennifer” to the next deranged level.
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Hunter Johnson’s directorial debut hits the home entertainment market three years after Bressack’s iPhone shot suspenseful thriller “To Jennifer” in 2013 courteously from Psykik Junky and MVDVisual. Johnson, who also dons the role of the film’s star, Spencer, writes and directs the official sequel about the unofficial sequel to “To Jennifer.” You got that? Bressack tags along as executive producer with the Sector 5 distributed indie horror, which is also shot on cellphone cameras and small digital cameras, co-starring David Coupe as Mack and Lara Jean Mummert as the film’s namesake – Jennifer. To throw in a couple of familiar and iconic horror actresses to legitimize “2 Jennifer,” “Deadly Revision’s” Dawna Lee Heising and “Sleepaway Camp’s” Felissa Rose make cameo appearances that are strategically satirical.
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Now, I haven’t yet sat down to view James Cullen Bressack’s “To Jennifer,” even though I do own a copy. However, the sequel can and does stand alone as a separate body of work, an entity that doesn’t need to crutch or leech itself from the original movie. “2 Jennifer” sets up the necessary information in the prologue with numerous faux interviews, one of them being Dawna Lee Heising, needed to convey to comprehend any sort of background in order for blind buy viewers who don’t know that “2 Jennifer” is a sequel (or viewers like me who haven’t yet watched the original, but is aware of it’s existence) to proceed with a voyeuristic tale of disturbing macabre.
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The story starts off slow. With the artificial interviews designed to construct a clean and clear enough picture of Bressack’s original film, super fanatic Spencer then jumps into camera view to fulfill Bressack’s wish, as seen from the last interview segment, of a brand new filmmaker tackling a followup to his hit film. Spencer seems like a normal joe, cultivating crew, equipment, locations, and talent that sizes him up to be a gung-ho participant for his Jennifer horror story. While Spencer dedication is unwavering, his underlining intentions are hard to surface and, eventually, something isn’t quite right with Spencer. Mack senses turmoil, but doesn’t grasp the full picture either. As Spencer start to unravel is when the tale begins to pick up a dangerous and unpredictable amount of steam, energizing a massive, ominous train of horror and lunacy that funnels down a twisted tunnel of reality disconnecting tragedy.
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The acting overshot the mark of realism by a hair over the margin. For a film that’s shot digitally on phones and handhelds, a more natural performance needs to be approached and all the acting conveyed nothing short of very staged. Staged in a good way as the acting wasn’t terrible, but far from it. The affect just didn’t fit the mold. Hunter Johnson performed troublingly naturalistic with his transmogrified character whereas David Coupe profusely oozed of trained actor. Even Bressack’s semi-small role of himself perceived overly rehearsed with the director portraying to be coked out of his mind and joyfully intoxicated in the midst of his small party of fraternizers and partakers of substances.
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Sector 5 distributes the original LAHorror.com “2 Jennifer” film through local cable providers and pay-per-view services come this August. The 90-minute film sent to me was a burned screener disc copy and won’t have the audio or video qualities critiqued for obvious reasons. Bottom line is to give Hunter Johnson’s “2 Jennifer” a go, especially if you’re a fan of the first film. The characters develop nicely with their niceties getting their throats cuts in a jaw-dropping, gut-checking ending that’ll sure to please every gore fan.